Thursday, 25 February 2010

Equal Opps

A bit serious again...oops...sorry. Will lighten up tomorrow!

In the development of social ideals, there was a time when some people went round saying we were all the same. Woman were the same as men, black people the same as white, disabled people were as capable as able bodied people etc in an attempt to combat prejudice. Those 'same' statements were making a point, at that stage of social consciousness development, that needed to be made. In other words, 'don't assume we can't do something or make assumptions about us because of who we are'.

However, it was soon realised that this was not an overly effective approach in the aim for fairness and thankfully things have moved on. It has been realised that simply treating everyone the same does not acknowledge institutionalised disadvantage and the barriers a person might come up against as a result of belonging to a particular group or minority. In other words, efforts have to be made to ensure that everyone can participate equally in the activities and opportunities that are available. This is extremely obvious when it comes to disabled people, for example.

However to help people consider this idea further in my difference, diversity and inclusion training I use this....

I state that the 'institution' changes from place to place but that this would be typical for a Norfolk country school (people usually nod furiously at this point). And I say, if you are an 'insider', it is very hard to imagine what it is like to be an outsider because all the things that make the outsider feel the way they do, the insider will not even register. It's easy, when you are an insider, to be complacent and dismissive of issues that 'outsiders' might raise, because from where you sit, it is not an issue.

And this is why consultation is so crucial. You cannot make assumptions about 'outsider' groups (that's not helpful as I have already stated, insiders are not in the right place to understand barriers), so you have to ask, to find out what the barriers are.

'Outsiders' might also not always be registered as such. For example, a single male in a team of females might be made to feel like an outsider but because males are not generally seen as 'outsiders' in society, their exclusion or discrimination might not be acknowledged (such as in the team of social workers that I worked with recently).

You may have also noticed that I have put 'girls' and boys' as outsiders. I do this to highlight that sometimes the institution favours boys and sometimes it favours girls.

N.B. I appreciate I have made several of these points in comments on my posts but it's nice to put it all together!


  1. Hi Molly... I agree, at least in part. "Everybody is the same" statements really wind me up because anyone (who is not blind) who has their eyes open can see we're not.

    "Everybody deserves to be treated with respect without preconceptions about who they are or what they can do on account of some characteristic" is much better. But going back to the blind argument, I had better have a good preconception that my blind friend can't see, or there will be trouble.

    I once had to escort a blind flute-playing friend part of the way home across London, and I kept forgetting she was blind, so I'd wander off to leave her panicking from time to time, before I remembered and came back and rescued her. Not my most successful supporting rôle.

    I think she's forgiven me, but I'm not sure......

  2. I like taking my blind friend and my disabled friend to the cinema because I get in half price as their "carer"! I prefer to take my blind friend because I don't have to push a wheelchair in the dark - unless it is a foreign film because then I have to read the bloody sub-titles all the way through to my blind friend. Have I got the right attitude? xxx

  3. When you spontaneously combust, could you leave us a leg or something for us to chew on? Like that old lady in the famous picture. Only take your shoe off. That disturbs me when it has a shoe on.

  4. Ahhhh your discussing the concepts of Emic and Etic perspectives!! I have just done a piece of work on that...

    I looked at the eight domains in which public policy operates (Home Life, Learning, Employment, Leisure, Personal Relationships, Participation, Environment and Health and Security) and then tried to explore each area from an Emic and Etic perspective.

    Viewing an issue from an Emic perspective only can be just as alientating as using complicated jargon but it's surprising how little awarness training there is on the subject (at least in the health field...I can't comment on other ones)

    God help me I've just done a drawing based on these concepts....

    I need to get out more!!

    C x

  5. This thing about being the sole male in a group of women, I was discussing this yesterday at French weight watchers with my diet buddy. In the UK it was usual to see a few men at these weekly sessions and I mentioned this to one of the French ladies. She seemed horrified that a man would even dream of coming to this sort of thing - it was for women, ne c'est pas?

  6. An interesting subject Molly!

    I am an outsider: For the families of the village in which I live, have been living together as a community for hundreds of years. Not only do I not share their history, or religious strands (R.C. or Protestant). Neither do I have the support of large family group and I have a different nationality. plus my lifestyle is Alternative. Fortunately I share with them a similar language, although the idioms are very different.

    What pleases me is that the authorities treat me with the same respect as they treat their own people and I have no complaint. In similar vein with my neighbours too. For neither they or me interfere with each other in any way, we assist each other as the need arises - no holds barred!

    The major difference here is that absolutely everyone is on first name terms - right across the board and that does make a major difference.

  7. I live in the badlands, right on the very edge of the middle class wedge bit where it joins the Working class bit that is "The Cross" a large and very old council estate. Ten years of working in "Industry" before I became self employed, means I have a foot in both worlds, I've got middle class mates who went to Uni and read the Guardian and working class mates who smoke Lambert and Butler and say "go'en up cit'ee". It's also nice to mix 'em up a bit, both are outsiders to the other group, but hat I've always particularly liked is how one chap, who's a prof at the local Uni, will be drawn out by them at various gatherings, and gradually turn into a Essex boy football supporter showing his roots, and some of the Estate boys will suddenly give away a love for Ian McEwan novels, or a huge Northen Soul vinyl collection that you wouldn't expect. Everyone should learn to mix it up, we're all in a minority of one at the end of the day...

  8. I like that a lot Typejunky. I used to always try to be with my "type" and was very frustrated that there were very very few of my "type" (not surprising, eh?!!) around me here in the town i live. So I decided if you can't beat them, join them, and then I realized the "minority of one" thing, the "Secret love for Ian MacEwan thing"....the more I explore "other types" who appear at odds with me, the more I discover what we have in common and what is unique and sometimes surprising about each individual. However, I would still like to have more like-minded people around me!

  9. Codgi,
    That is a better way of putting it! Shame not everyone follows that moral code isn’t it!

    You’ve set me off thinking. You know your friend is blind but you could not empathise (or even anticipate) with all the barriers she or he experiences within the huge scope of life experience. There will always be things you won’t have considered. The barriers can be subtle and might not just be about the physical disability – there will be attitudes, prejudices, and misconceptions that people have...etc..

    An example was given by a friend of mine recently. She teaches physio at University. There are many overseas students that do this course. What she noticed was that students from the African continent – although clearly as bright as UK students - were getting lower marks for assignments. What she and her colleagues have started to speculate was that a big part of the assessment relies upon students taking initiative and – to some degree - challenging what they have been taught. Culturally for some overseas students, challenging your teacher is a big No NO. Consequently, they appear to have less initiative when really it is that they consider showing it would be disrespectful to their teachers.

    James – yes – you are clearly a contributing member of society.

    James – Will you really chew on what I leave? What I leave probably won’t have cooked properly. I won’t wear shoes on Monday anyway – just in case.
    I think it’s currently 50/50 whether I’ll spontaneously combust or not. I mean some days I think, Molly you’re just being ridiculous – there is no scientific evidence that daily blogging is protection from spontaneous combustion or, indeed, that stopping the daily blog means it will definitely happen or that the possibility is in anyway altered from distinctly remote by time spent at the keyboard. Other days, however, I panic and only rocking and self hugging helps me pull myself together enough to anticipate a departure from such an ingrained daily routine and the SC risk I will speculatively take. The Arthur C Clarke deep in my psyche has a lot to answer for. We’ll just have to wait and see. If I should spontaneously combust, I am relying upon you, blog gang, to publish the findings so that others do not share the same fate.

    Carol – ah! The academic version!!!! Wow – what a task. What was your key learning?
    I’d love to see your drawing!!! I got excited – btu then i’m not having to do the study! What are you studying for? xxx

  10. FF – Do men never diet in France or is it left solely to women to worry about such things? Does it work for you –the weightwatcher thing? Is it easier or harder because it’s public do you think?

    Heronster – is the term ‘blow-in still used? Trying not to generalise but doing it anyway – and saying what I said on your blog – my experiences of Ireland in three visits were warmth, friendliness, hospitality (tea and toast was brought to our tent one morning) absence of fear towards the ‘stranger’, (one time we hitched and were picked up by a range of people - including an elderly couple), tolerance and acceptance, a strong sense of ‘community’, an absence of up-tightness (we camped on village greens) and humour. Without wanting to slag Britain off (too easy to stereotype and moan and no good comes of it) I will say, what I encountered in Ireland, I would have to look harder to find in the parts of England I have visited. Perhaps it comes of a considerable more populated nation, some irresponsible media and a break-down of community? Huge debate. Will lighten up tomorrow!

    Can you give us some examples of different idioms?...I like those – especially when they have the same meaning but use a different metaphor. And I like how animal noises are portrayed in different languages...for example a Norwegian pig goes ‘nurf nurf’ and a Turkish one goes ‘hort hort’!!!!!!
    Mt T – yes we are all existentialist angst is kicking in...hugging and rocking again! And it makes me think of one of my favourite scenes in Life of Brian when Brian is saying to a crowd, ‘we are all of us individuals’ and a single person shouts, ‘I’m not.’

    Back when we could get full grants – lots of my student friends (and boyfriends) came from council estates. I wonder what the ‘paying for a uni education’ but more people going has done to the ‘mix’. Pubs are the best place to mix, I find!

  11. You alluded to it by saying institutions change from place to place, but doesn't the drawing of one big house as the 'institution' presuppose that there's a common agreement about what the 'institution' is within a given location?
    Generalizations worry me sometimes.

    As a question, is it ok for a business as an institution to discriminate / be non-inclusive against unintelligent people or criminials as potential hires? Would it be fine for a bank to discriminate against the lazy or non-working when trying to borrow money?

  12. Hi Eric,
    As a training tool, I stress the fact the 'institution' changes from place to place and I feel the house works as a good metaphor for 'inside' and 'outside'. In Norfolk schools the institution I depict is pretty typical - in fact outside the main urban areas, you'd be hard pushed to find diversity in terms of black and Asian people, disabled people etc. I am very anti-generalisations (pounce on them too quickly in fact) but we all make them at times! The full training explores stereotyping, language, a range of anti-diversity behaviours, policy, inclusion practices etc This is a wee snippet.

  13. As to your could the bank know those details unless they had a complex interviewing process????

    I am guessing banks assess on current financial income alone - yes?

  14. By golly you are right Molly! Before I go to idioms. Mrs Heron remarked that perhaps the English look for divisions, rather than accepting that we are all human beings.
    Onwards: 1. The phrase 'Good Evening' is said instead of Good Afternoon.
    2. 'Good Night' is said as a welcome and not as a farewell.
    3. If you ask for 'A couple of anything' you will be asked "How many ?" because a couple is quantity of more than two.
    4. A Glass of Guinness is a half pint.
    5. The Bog is a place where turf (peat) is cut, it is not slang for a toilet.
    5a, Turf is a fuel made from dried peat.
    6. Turves are rolls of grass laid to make a lawn.
    7.The reply to ' a greeting of Happy Xmas or New Year is 'Many Happy Returns'
    8. 'A Ditch' is not a trench, it is a hedge containg a mixed variety of trees or shrubs.
    8a, 'a HEDGE' cotains a plants a of single variety - for example a Privet hedge.

  15. Thank you is indeed a dialect!

    If I asked for a glass of the 'black milk' I would be disappointed. Crisis averted. I don't tend to say hedge or turf too often - so i might not seem too strange. We say good morning only as a greeting and goodnight only as a farewell over here - makes sense that they could both be greetings and farewells. I'll try it out on people!!!

  16. And for the degree in today's post:
    1) Are men the same as women?
    2) Who lives on the edge of the Badlands?
    3) How would you feel if the Russian President was your neighbour?
    4) Why has Arthur C Clarke caused me distress?
    5)Does Etic Montgomery live inside or outside the house?
    6) What do I secretly collect?

    I'd be surprised if anyone can get these right.

  17. I have 7 of those peeps in my class! Betcha can't guess which ones! I like to think that everyone is welcome in my classroom :o)

  18. No, not that I couldn't empathise.... I just forgot. I was treating her just like I would a sighted person, and that was a mistake.

  19. we are all the same and in the same way we are all different :)

    in general i think that we recognise in another what we know in ourselves.
    i think that the core emotions are the same, but that their source may be different.

    great post...

    best wishes
    be well

  20. Oh - Codgi - it was your 'but' and your 'I agree - at least in part' that threw me. I windered if we were going to have a debate.

    You should be less careless (with blind people and buts!!!!!!!) xxxx ;)

    Thank you Ribbon - you seem like a very warm person...I will have a snoop at you

  21. I'm doing a Masters in Organisation and Community Development. The work I did on Emic and Etic perspectives was for my Social Structures and Social Policy module. My e-mail address is if you send me an e-mail I'll attach the picture for you :-)

    Oh, and the key learning can't design public policy without examining the impact it will have on at all eight domains because each one doesn't exist in isolation. Your policy will be destined to fail if all are not taken into account.

    C x


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